Who Cares:
A National Count of Foster Homes and Families

About

Methodology

The goal of this project is to identify recent trends in foster home capacity for each state and Washington, D.C. We examine several key variables in this area.

The number of youth in foster care

We have included the fiscal year 2012 and 2016 figures from the federal Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS).

Because AFCARS lags behind current-year information—fiscal 2016 is the most recent report—we also asked each state to provide the number of youth in foster care as of March 31, 2018, or the nearest date for which data was available.  

The number of non-relative foster homes

We asked each state to provide the number of non-relative foster homes as of March 31, 2018, or the nearest date for which data was available. We collected the 2012 and 2017 figures on this metric in last year’s capacity project.

This year, we also began to ask for a total number of licensed foster homes, regardless of non-relative or relative status. This is a data point we may continue to collect for future reports.

The use of relatives to care for youth

We obtained AFCARS data from 2012 and 2016 to identify the number of foster youth living with relatives.

This year, we also began asking each state to provide the number of relatives with an active, ongoing placement as of March 31, 2018, or the nearest date for which data was available. This is a data point we may continue to collect for future reports.

The use of congregate care

Congregate care is a term that refers to larger foster care placement settings such as group homes and institutions. We obtained AFCARS data from 2012 and 2016 to identify the number of foster youth living in these settings.

Limitations

While federally collected AFCARS data is available for all states, many states were unable to answer, or were unresponsive to, our questions. Further, while we made an identical request to each state and worked with several to ensure clarity on our questions, it is possible that states define certain data elements differently.

There are likely discrepancies between AFCARS point-in-time data and states’ point-in-time data due to the structure of AFCARS. For example, some states’ self-reported total number of youth in care for 2018 may include youth in extended foster care; AFCARS would not include this group in the total number of youth in care.

It is also important to note that our research questions for this project focuses entirely on issues of quantity. Of greater importance to the child welfare field are policies and practice that ensure the quality and preparedness of all foster parents, and the removal of children from birth families is done only when it is absolutely necessary.

About The Chronicle of Social Change

Launched in 2013, The Chronicle of Social Change is an online news publication dedicated to solution-based news coverage of child welfare, juvenile justice, mental health and educational issues faced by vulnerable children.

Supporters

  • The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation
  • The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption

Partners

  • UPenn School of Social Policy and Practice
  • The Field Center for Children's Policy, Practice, and Research at UPenn
  • The Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory Law School